Why Military Families End Up In Divorce

A study by Benjamin Karney (UCLA) and John Crown (RAND Corp) examines the issue of divorce among couples where one spouse is in the military. Find the results, as well as who from within the military is most likely to divorce.

By April Lopez
Updated: December 15, 2014
Military Families and Divorce

It has been reported that military deployments cause a rift in military couples which unfortunately lead to divorce. This is because of the long and life threatening deployments, as well as tension caused by the recent wars.

According to the New York Times, military deployments eat up marriages, causing huge problems to couples and eventually, making them total strangers to each other.

That is why Benjamin Karney (UCLA) and John Crown (RAND Corp) made an analysis of this development to look more carefully at the whole issue. They checked recent personnel records of the entire U.S. military to know how huge the impact of time deployment is on couples.

Over one-half million service members participated especially those who were married after 9/11 and served between 2002 and 2005. Gender, race and presence of children were among the data collected.

The results varied depending on groups of reserved service members but nonetheless provided some general insights into which service members are more at risk of divorce.

The study found that couples who marry at a younger age are more likely to divorce. It also shows that women serving in the military were more at risk of divorce. The presence of children gave mixed results. For Active duty military including enlisted members and officers in the Army, couples with children are less likely to divorce. However, the Reserves – Navy enlisted Reservists with children were more at risk of divorce.

Additionally, among service members in the Army and Navy, divorce rates are about twice as high for black couples compared to white couples. In the Reserves, blacks in the Army were more at risk of divorce but black Navy and Air Force enlisted personnel were at low risks of getting a divorce.

Separate analyses were also made for every branch of the service, and in the 20 tests, Karney and Crown found that only two deployments resulted in a greater risk of divorce. Active duty officers and enlisted Air Force personnel were likely to get a divorce due to deployment. However, the results were opposite in the other 13 tests. It shows that longer deployment means lower risk of divorce. Surprisingly, deployment seemed to improve the stability of the marriage.

Furthermore, Karney and Crown’s study revealed that deployment for couples who were married younger, with children and for women, lowered the risk of divorce.

The results are entirely different compared to usual reports that we see on television or read on the newspaper. For military couples, deployment is more of a challenge than a crisis. It may be difficult but if couples find ways to strengthen their relationship despite the distance, there’s a huge possibility that their marriage will work.

According to Karney and Crown, the military actually provides different kinds of service and support to service members. They not only give child care, health care and housing assistance but also emotional support to help relieve daily stress brought about by the kind of job that they have.


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